US Sports Veteran
The San Antonio Spurs have traded away their former NBA Finals MVP. Two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Kawhi Leonard is joining Kyle Lowery and the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors also received veteran shooting guard Danny Green, while the Spurs got All-Star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, center Jakob Poeltl, and a 2019 protected first-round pick.
For the Spurs, this is the end to what could be one of the worst mishandlings of a player in NBA history. Leonard was on his way to becoming a legend when he was injured in the playoffs last year. He sat out most of 2017 and drew a lot of criticism, even from in the Spurs locker room. San Antonio showed Leonard a complete lack of privacy and respect. There was no reason to rush back from the injury.
On the other side of this trade is another player mishandling. DeRozan was hyped up as the man in Toronto for years to come. He was the city’s superstar and was already a legend with the team, despite postseason struggles during LeBron James’ reign in the Eastern Conference. The Raptors assured DeRozan they wouldn’t trade him, but here we are. Both DeRozan and Leonard feel they’ve been backstabbed and let down by their former teams.
It’s much worse for DeRozan though. The Raptors finished first in the East in 2017, Dwane Casey won Coach of the Year but was still fired, and DeRozan looked like he was having a blast with Lowry during the season. James’ departure from the East this offseason opened the best chance for the Raptors and DeRozan to make it to the finals during the nine-year veteran’s career. That chance is gone now.
The addition of Leonard makes the East a true three horse race between the Raptors, Boston Celtics, and Philadelphia 76ers. Unfortunately for the Raptors, the Celtics have so much depth and star power that I don’t see them losing the East. The 76ers, another young team, will also be a tough matchup for the Raptors, especially if Markelle Fultz gets healthy.
The Raptors hope that Leonard falls in love with the organization and Toronto during his one-year stay. If the team doesn’t have significant postseason success in 2018 and Leonard leaves in the 2019 offseason, everything will have been for nothing. If he re-signs long-term, like Paul George did in OKC, then the future of the team will be secure. That is all assuming that Leonard stays healthy and performs like the superstar he’s been up to this point.
As for the Spurs, DeRozan is entering the third year of a five-year deal. That means the team has him through the end of the 2020-21 season. Who knows if he’ll stick around beyond that point, or how good the Spurs will even be at that time. While DeRozan is beginning a new legacy with a team that has a history studded with legends, he’s left behind his own legend in Toronto. He is the franchise record holder for games played (675), minutes played (22,986), field goals (4,716), free throws (3,539), and points (13,296). It’s regretful how he left the team that he’s meant so much to.
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